Whether textiles are intended as clothing or as components of furniture such as upholstery and curtaining, the production process is usually both water, energy, and chemical intensive, giving rise to a broad range of different environmental and waste issues.
From the perspective of greenhouse gases, the production of virgin textiles, in particular, gives rise to about 15kg of carbon dioxide per kilogram of textile. In modern environmental terms, this is unacceptably high.
As a result of these kinds of realities, the industry is facing ever tightening legislation regarding water discharges, air emissions, and waste generation. In South Africa, a water scarce country, there is a strong emphasis by government on the need to reduce effluent arising from the finishing of yarn or fabric created by spinners, weavers, knitters, and tanners. The finishing processes, which involve any combination of scouring, bleaching, dyeing, and printing, invariably result in high levels of contaminated water.
Government now takes the view that effluent reuse has to become as much a part of the water supply system as other sources of ground or surface water.